5 Female Change Makers to Watch

  |   Blog, Feature Stories

In honor of Female Founder Month, Comcast NBCUniversal is featuring women innovators and founders throughout the month of May. We are proud to partner with Startup Grind and Dreamers // Doers to share these stories about women who are disrupting industries and changing the world. This is a guest blog contributed by Jillian Rinehimer from the Dreamers // Doers network.

We have all had an ‘a-ha’ moment where we realize we need to change something about ourselves, our habits, or in how we’re experiencing the world. How often do we follow through with these thoughts? Waking up in the middle of the night and frantically scribbling some thoughts down is the first step. But, fostering that idea to make a difference is how change makers are born.

These five trailblazers used their personal ‘a-ha’ moments to inspire movements that are disrupting the social impact, sexual, emotional and physical health fields. These women are the ones to watch as their companies play a significant role in shifting the stigma around popular conversation. And, they’re just getting started.

Change Maker: Tiffany Yu

Company: Diversability, San Francisco — Rebranding disability through the power of community.

How Tiffany is changing the world: Diversability is a for-profit company that takes pride in their business model of consistent and reliable work to relay social good by connecting, showcasing and empowering individuals with and without disabilities. This three-pillar system is meant to increase confidence and change perceptions of disability by: connecting individuals in-person; showcasing role models to watch among the disability community; and, empowering individuals to take a chance by building encouragement. Run by volunteers, Diversability has become a global movement to show that people with disabilities are more than just “people with disabilities.” Yu enforces, “We are entrepreneurs, executives, whatever we want to be. We are people with diverse abilities.”

Why Tiffany took action and started Diversability:

Twenty years ago, Yu was involved in a severe car accident that began her journey of living with a disability. Although she adjusted to her new life, she couldn’t help but notice the lack of conversation around disability, particularly when it came to diversity. In 2009, during her final year at Georgetown University where she studied finance and accounting, this realization triggered her to take action and Yu started Diversability. Within its first year, the movement received a grant from Reimagine Georgetown and hosted its first event. When Yu graduated, she handed the reigns over to an on-campus group dedicated to continuing the conversation around disability. Yu remained involved in the disability community while also working for and introducing the disability conversation into prominent firms, like Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg Television and REVOLT TV. It wasn’t until 2015 that Yu expanded Diversability off-campus and sparked a global revolution. Since this game-changing step, Yu has been recognized as Women of Influence Honoree by the New York Business Journal and appeared in the 2016 Real Leaders Magazine list of 100 visionary leaders.

Change maker: Yasmine Mustafa

Company: ROAR for Good, Philadelphia

How Yasmine is changing the world: ROAR began as a mission to create a world with fewer assaults and less sexual harassment so women can feel safer and more comfortable. As the company developed their app and technology, they delved into solving the problem of stopping violence against women before it starts. ROAR developed the Athena, a daily wearable device that is designed to reduce the number of assaults by making it easier for your contacts to track you and giving you increased access to emergency numbers. Help is available at the click of a button, which adds security to walking home in the dark, visiting a new area, or simply living alone. Along with always watching over you, ROAR is attempting to solve the problem for good.

Why Yasmine took action and started ROAR for good: Co-founder and CEO Yasmine Mustafa set out to travel South America as a solo traveler for six months. Throughout this trip of a lifetime, Mustafa encountered countless female travelers who shared stories of violence and assault. Upon her return home, Mustafa was notified of a rape that occurred in the building where she lived. Mustafa knew something needed to be done besides raise the bar for conversation around harassment, abuse, and attacks against women. She wanted more than just a Band-Aid approach to solving the problem; she wanted a tangible solution. So, she went into research mode for 34 months, worked closely with 12 personal defense instructors and police officers to develop the Athena, which has been tested by more than 600 users. The device is now being recognized for its smart and safe interface, while Mustafa is recognized for her innovation and perseverance.

Change maker: Marah Lidey and Naomi Hirabayashi

Company: Shine, New York – the company that makes wellbeing more accessible.

How Marah & Naomi are changing the world: The first thing many of us do every morning is check our phones. So, why not wake up to positivity and start your day on the best note possible? This is what Shine is all about – making wellbeing more accessible through a daily text message to help you feel your best self with tactical, research-backed tools to thrive. It is the largest messaging service for wellbeing, with over 500,000 users relying on daily messages through SMS, Facebook Messenger, or Kik. The messages address staying on track with a goal, maintaining wellbeing during a particularly stressful period, reminding of one’s worth through a breakup, or receiving general words of encouragement.

Why Marah & Naomi took action and started Shine: The co-founders take pride in creating a “friend you can fit in your pocket” since friend interactions are what sparked Shine. Lidey and Hirabayashi realized the role of exclusivity and intimacy that texts play in our technology-driven world. Unlike email and other forms of social, we only text with the most important people in our lives — our VIPs. As former coworkers, Lidey and Hirabayashi were each other’s VIPs, always texting about work, relationships and side projects. This was their way of creating wellbeing; a simple, personal interaction that millions of people experience daily without realizing the significance of having a soundboard, or go-to person. Both women sought out an experience that may offer similar results and were surprised when they discovered there was no other platform like this out there. In fact, they discovered that the majority of their friends weren’t even getting advice from their peers–they were Googling it or paying for it. So, Shine was born and took off to make daily wellbeing accessible for even more people.

Change maker: Lauren Schulte

Company: The Flex Company, Venice Beach, CA – A disposable tampon alternative.

How Lauren is changing the world: Flex is a disc that is meant to make periods more comfortable and less of a hassle. Rather than being absorbent (like a tampon or a pad) the Flex disc is placed at the base of the cervix to catch menstrual fluid. It can be worn for 12 hours and is designed to make a period day feel like any other day. Online customer reviews laud Flex for fewer bathroom breaks, less leaking, less cramping, fewer infections, and even mess-free sex. Since its launch in August 2015, Schulte has raised over $4.2 million.

Why Lauren took action and started The Flex Company: For her entire life, Schulte was ashamed of getting her period, constantly hiding it from family, friends, partners, and even employers. Every period she had was followed by a yeast infection caused by cotton tampons. She was working in marketing in Silicon Valley and was tired of fighting her own body every month. She began doing research on tampons and realized nothing had changed in tampon manufacturing since the 1930s. So, she began doing her own product testing in her bathroom, trying dozens of tampon brands and menstrual cups. She drew from the benefits of these devices to create Flex.

Change maker: Jenna Tanenbaum

Company: GreenBlender, NYC–Smoothie Delivery Service

How Jenna is changing the world: It is easier to eat healthy when there is easy access to fresh ingredients and new recipes. GreenBlender makes that possible. This superfood, smoothie recipe and ingredient delivery service is meant to provide you with a seamless way to nurture your health needs. By joining GreenBlender, subscribers get everything they need to make amazing smoothies at home – five smoothie recipes and pre-portioned ingredients, from local, organic farms, in order to blend up ten smoothies. GreenBlender enforces the general power of smoothie benefits, by recognizing their influence in clearer skin, heightened mental clarity, increased energy, and weight loss.

Why Jenna took action and started GreenBlender: Coming from a background in business and finance, Tanenbaum was always a fitness junkie on the side. Her passion for healthy eating and working out took the form of a blog. This sparked a snowball effect of gaining recognition from ClassPass to quitting the finance world and turning her passion project into a full-time focus. As she brainstormed on the exact product she desired, she relied on nutrient-based smoothies to begin her days of development. It was the mornings when she had all the ingredients on hand that she created the healthiest recipes, and so was most productive. This idea gave way to the idea of a smoothie company. Tanenbaum worked with her business partner and fiancé, Amir, to include an online aspect of the company, along with the physical smoothie product. The digital interface and physical product are meant to create a healthy habit that translates to a lifestyle.

This piece was made possible through a partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal and Dreamers // Doers, the high-impact community of trailblazing women, with a mission of increasing the number of successful ventures launched by women. Sign up here, to get updates from Dreamers // Doers and top resources for *making* big dreams happen.